Kiss Moon rebounded from a disappointing run on Kentucky Derby Day to wear down favored I’m Already Sexy in the final yards and score a narrow nose victory on Saturday in Churchill Downs’ 39th running of the $100,000 Old Forester Mint Julep Handicap (Grade III), a turf race the 4-year-old filly’s mother won in 2003.

The 4-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon rallied from fourth under jockey Corey Lanerie to win as the fifth wagering choice in a field of 12 fillies and mares ages three and up and paid $19.40, $10.60 and $5.60.  I’m Already Sexy, the 3-1 favorite under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., returned $5 and $3.20.  Strike Charmer finished third under Chris Landeros, 1 ¼ lengths behind the 1-2 finishers and a half-length in front of fourth-place finisher Kitty Wine, and paid $4 to show.

Kiss Moon is owned by former Carl F. Pollard, the former chairman of the board of Churchill Downs Incorporated, the parent company of Churchill Downs, and trained by David Vance.  The owner-trainer team won the 2003 Early Times Mint Julep with Kiss the Devil, the dam of Kiss Moon, who was bred at Pollard’s Hermitage Farm in Goshen, Ky.

The winner covered the 1 1/16-mile distance on the firm turf course in 1:40.94.

Kiss Moon was coming off a poor effort on Kentucky Derby Day in which she finished 11th of 13 runners in the Grade II Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile, a race that was her first outing since November.  That race followed a winter break at Oaklawn Park during which she missed significant training because of wintry weather, and Vance expected her to be fit and much improved in the Old Forester Mint Julep following her earlier run.

“We tried to get her ready for Derby Day – that was our plan, but the Oaklawn weather just put us way back,” Vance said.  “We decided to go ahead and run her in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile because there was no place else to run her.  We either had to run her or train her another five to six weeks … When Lanerie asked her today, she was there for him.”

“She just got dead tired last time out – she needed the race,” Lanerie said.  “The last 50 yards I was getting a little worried, but both horses were trying hard and neither one of them wanted to lose.  I’m just glad I was on the winning horse.”

The victory in the Old Forester Mint Julep was the third stakes triumph for Kiss Moon, but her first in graded stakes competition.  She had finished a good third behind Sparkling Review in the Grade II Mrs. Revere Stakes over the Churchill Downs grass in November and had scored a pair of stakes wins at Arlington Park and Indiana Grand.  She earlier had run on dirt in the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI), where she finished 11th behind the victorious eventual 3-year-old filly champion Untapable.

Saturday’s triumph lifted Kiss Moon’s career record to 5-1-3 in 14 races and the winner’s prize of $58,280 increased her lifetime earnings to $349,596.

Maid On a Mission was first out of the gate the Old Forester Mint Julep, but I’m Already Sexy quickly surged to the lead heading into the backstretch.  I’m Already Sexy took the field through solid early fractions of :23.08 for the quarter and :46.77 for the half-mile, while Kiss Moon stalked the leaders in third and Strike Charmer was just behind her.  Lanerie took the eventual winner four-wide on the far turn and moved toward I’m Already Sexy, who still had a 1 1/2-length advantage entering the homestretch.  Kiss Moon gradually wore down the favorite and got up for the victory in the final strides of the race.

Aurelia’s Belle finished fifth, and was followed past the finish by Keening, Personal Diary, Kepi, Maid On a Mission, Bitty Kitty and Femme FataleCanny Nanny did not finish the race.

OLD FORESTER MINT JULEP QUOTES

DAVID VANCE, trainer of KISS MOON (winner): “We tried to get her ready for Derby Day – that was our plan, but the Oaklawn weather just put us way back. We decided to go ahead and run her in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile because there was no place else to run her.  So I had to either had to run her or train her another five to six weeks.  She’s smart enough – she didn’t hurt herself (in the Distaff Turf Mile).  When Lanerie asked her today, she was there for him.  She’ll do good things this year, but he’ll stay on the grass the rest of her life.”  

COREY LANERIE, jockey on KISS MOON (winner): “David said he had missed some training with her before that last race.  He said ‘Maybe I’m wrong,” so he put her in (on Derby Day) and it turned out he was right: she got tired and she needed the race.  But we didn’t beat her up; we rode her hard and got her fit and today she was ready.  She just got dead-tired last time out – she needed the race.

“The last 50 yards I was getting a little worried, but both horses were trying hard and neither one of them wanted to lose.  I’m just glad I was on the winning horse.

"She looked great today.  She had filled out a little bit and her color was good.  She ought to move forward off this race.”

BRIAN HERNANDEZ, JR: (jockey, I’m Already Sexy, second as 7-2 beaten favorite): “We had a great trip, I wish we could have maybe gone a little slower earlier; she was a little keen. She’s a gritty little horse, she fought hard. Turning for home I asked her for more and she gave it to me, which surprised me because she was going so fast early. She ran a big race.”

CHRIS LANDEROS (jockey, Strike Charmer, third): “I had a good trip, there’s really nothing else I can say.”

DAVID CARROLL (trainer, Strike Charmer, third): “We just kind of lost momentum and just didn’t get running room; she’s never really been comfortable down in there and once he {Chris Landeros} got her out of there, she was trying to come back gain. It was just a tough spot. I’m going to regroup, we were pointing towards this and we may take her up to Saratoga, she could run there or we’ll ship around. We’re proud of the effort, just disappointed in the result.”

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